In the wake of a recent national tragedy and discussion about Christian ethics, use of force for self defense, and the growing senseless violence toward Christian people as they gather there is a need for pastoral leadership both in the church and in the culture. This article aims to provide a simple biblical format to interact with these issues and to trigger a deeper conversation beyond social media sound bytes. Pastoral leadership which is rooted in the scriptures is essential for the local church to have a relevant voice in the issues of our day.
In the scripture, there are 4 “units” defined and described. Each one is given specific instruction for how to function and live. These 4 units represent overlap and connecting points. The 4 units are the individual, the family, the church gathered, and the society. Each circle has its own set of biblical guidelines for living and each unity plays into the economy of God for designing how life on planet earth should function. Each has commonality revealed at each level.
The individual is the most commonly defined and described circle of life in the scriptures. Many directives on how to live, worship, and honor God. The individual is to be humble, submissive, and honoring to Christ as His authority as revealed in the scriptures. The individual ethic relevant to the topic of violence and evil is that we are to love our enemy, pray for them, and seek their good through the spread of the gospel.
The unit of the family is the place where citizens are developed through parenting and the living out of Christian faith at home. The husband is defined as the leader of the home which at least involves an element of provision and protection. That is, a man is given strength and capacity to provide and protect his home and his family. The founders of American society rightly understood that individual property rights were paramount to the formation of a free and moral society.
The third unit is the church gathered and this is the circle where the scriptures define specific guidelines for life, conflict resolution, and discipline. 1 Corinthians lays out multiple principles guiding life within the church and its discipline of members who drift or overtly walk away from the Christian ethic. Marriage and divorce, legal issues between 2 believers, conflict resolution, etc. are all defined for the church gathered with the elders given authority to lead, shepherd, and protect the congregation as the representative bride of Christ. The elders are the authority structure in the church like the husband is the authority structure in the family.
The fourth unit is the governing of society and the creation of a government. The scriptures not only define the authority given to the governing authorities but also the relationship between the individual, family and church to that governing authority. Like the church, the government is given authority to discipline, guide, and maintain order which honors God. Individuals, families, and churches are given freedom to ignore the government if their laws are in violation of God’s supreme law revealed in the Bible.
Now, each circle has its own set of ethics and while those ethics overlap, they are not necessarily identical. In God’s design, it is important to understand what circle a person is functioning and what scriptural guidance is relevant.